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 Marcia Purse

How Do I Talk to My Loved-One Who Is Hypomanic?

By September 2, 2009

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Some of the most common emails we received are from significant others of those who have bipolar disorder. These are from husbands and wives, lovers and friends, parents and children who just want to help, to be there for the person they love. But they don’t know how. Sometime ago a reader asked, "What IS helpful behavior? What does 'be supportive' really mean?" Members responded with How Family Members Can Help Someone with Bipolar Disorder.

Recently, Belinda wrote about her frustration in trying to talk with her girlfriend who is starting a manic upswing, but doesn’t think so. “I am so worried about my girlfriend. I see all the warning signs that she is hypomanic heading towards a full manic episode, but she disagrees. The thing is that my attempts to talk to her about this seem to be making it worse. When I’m nervous and upset I want to talk things out, but I’m driving her over the edge.”

Dr. Cynthia Last is a clinical psychologist in private practice who works with patients and family members routinely. She is also the author of When Someone You Love Is Bipolar and offers a couple of tips for talking to your loved-one during these times.

Don’t …

  • Respond to the irritability
  • Bring up touchy subjects
  • Argue, even if you’re right
  • Be a “Chatty Cathy”

Do …

  • Speak calmly and slowly
  • Use logic
  • Give your mate breathing room
  • Problem solve together

What have you found helps or exacerbates stressful conversations with your loved-one? If you’re the side of the coin with bipolar disorder, what ticks you off or smoothes things over? ~Kimberly

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Comments
September 4, 2009 at 9:58 am
(1) Chad says:

I like being hypomanic, I can get more things done with a deeper since of higher level of thinking. on the other hand being full blow manic it is a total different story, I drive recklessly to endanger myself. I know I need to go to the hospital but I offten don’t because I know that I will be there forever. even if that I’m endangering others even myself with my behavior. I just fell spirtual free, it has been so bad at times that going to church bothers me thinking that I’m God ready to rip my clothes off and saying I’m christ here I am Kill me. This atacully happened all most.

September 4, 2009 at 10:37 am
(2) Mark says:

I agree with the suggestions on how to deal with loved ones. Unfortunately, in the real world it doesn’t happen. The only one I know who understands bipolar disorder is my psychologist. Even my own primary doctor is ignorant. When I start to go into mania, I get irritable and do and say things that are irrational. I have no support at home. I get called crazy, psycho. I am asked if I took my medicine today. Have I seen my doctor. Figure it out or leave. I’m sorry for sounding cynical. If I read another book on bipolar I will throw up. If their is any consolation, I kind of like being nuts. Just kidding !

September 4, 2009 at 11:31 am
(3) Barbara says:

My 32yr old daughter & 59yr old husband are bipolar. Both diagnosed several yrs ago. We all live together, due to her health challenges. When my husband was younger he had the nick-name at work of Robo Cop & Superman. He would & could do his job & others. But at home, lordy mercy was he hell on wheels. If he had yanked his shirt off & showed me an S on his chest, I would have believed him.

I always thought he had seasonal depression & did my best to ignore him because he would demand that he had a right to make all of us aware of how the world was evil & we should feel the same way. I used my sense of humor, meshed it with his warped sense of humor & the family survived the intense downs. Not that I am perfect! I was driven to madness & would let him have it when he became abusive. To many fights, that should never have happen.

I wanted peace & harmony & he could never find it. After a few years of finding the right medication, I have rediscovered the man I married 35 yrs ago. His diabetes has taken so much away from him, but he is still there. He still has his highs & lows, & I still have to talk calmly & no name calling. But if he turns that mouth on the grandchildren I will take over.
He was once evil with his mouth on one of our grandchildren till I finally broke down & admitted there are signs of bipolar within him, too. The way I helped hubby quit saying cruel things about him was to say, “Now we know he has what you & his mother has.” You have your answer now. That satisfied him so he won’t say hateful things anymore. Hell let’s admit, Bipolars can be so awesomely talented!

There isn’t a book or forum that can help someone who has bipolar or teach someone how to deal with someone who has bipolar. Most of what I have FINALLY learned and I’m applying came from the point of love. I love them. They drive me insane at times, but I’m a die hard optimist. I am not going to give up on them. So we have our moments. I know for a fact, because we do love each other, if the tables were turned, they would do the same for me. But without that deep love & acknowledging them as being human, just like everyone else, relationships can’t & won’t happen. No one is perfect. I’ll admit it, neither am I!

I’ve learn the really hard part was shutting my mouth & not reacting to their reaction. It doesn’t work with any relationship be it with bipolar s or non bipolar s. Period. We are human & only want to be loved.
But in being honest with myself, it took a long, long time to get to this point!

September 4, 2009 at 11:35 am
(4) Thomas says:

When I am in the infamous manic upswing, I can rely on my sisters, brother and close friends to reign me in. I may start off in denial a little, but will try my best to do some breathing exercises and clear my thoughts.
What ticks me off during this time was my ex-pastor who basically believes that bi-polar is of the “devil” and I should be praying more. It was obvious to him that there was something wrong with my faith.
Needless to say, I am no longer a member of that congregation. The sad part is now finding a Bible based church that will accept someone with mental health problems.

September 4, 2009 at 2:17 pm
(5) flowerbells says:

It helps me if someone reaches out their hand so I can take it. Holding hands or having someone to hold me in a loving embrace for a long time helps me. Unfortunately, for some people someone who is depressed or hypomanic turns them off and they don’t want to hold that person. I think people like that should get over it, because it’s hurtful if I need the human touch and even my own sister won’t touch me.

September 4, 2009 at 3:26 pm
(6) Michael A. in Michigan says:

I understand all of the above. I’m BPI/RapidCycling/MixedStates and when I go fullblown manic it’s a love/hate relationship for me. I tend to write more poetry but I become an a$$hole also. My wife tries hard, I know she does. Unfortunately there are times when she just doesn’t seem to care that I’m not completely in control. Especially my mouth, it says such hurtful things. But I gave her this analogy: “My BP is like a horror movie at times, we all know what is going to happen but there is nothing we can do about it.” I’m talking about from my point of view. That’s how it feels at times. I could not ask for a more caring and loving woman. I wish she could understand this curse I have a little better. I can say one thing she is trying very hard, that’s all I could ask of her. I love my wife..!!

September 5, 2009 at 12:45 am
(7) Rhianna says:

I sure don’t envy my partner trying to communicate difficult topics to me when I am hypomanic. If the topic doesn’t need to be discussed urgently, I’d recommend waiting until the mood swings to within the normal range. When I am feeling “up” & uber-confident, I can initially dismiss his ideas as over-the-top or just plain wrong. However, issues can’t always wait. I find that if my partner needs to raise an issue when I’m hypo, if he remains calm, loving & “attached” (even in the face of irrational emotionality on my part!), but at the same time “sticks to his guns”.

If couples wish to learn how to communicate better during hypomanic episodes, i would recommend reading regular books about couples communication – and try to get really good at it! Also going to couples counselling to learn some new “tools” on who to deal with conflict will definately help.

September 6, 2009 at 3:01 pm
(8) muddle.thru says:

gooood question. = ) i’m 48…diagnosed at 32…grew up with a bipolar Dad who i ADORED but who could snap in a microsecond. just blow up. always abjectly apologetic afterwards. he seemed utterly honest, loving, and admirable to me, if the onerous cause of great tension at times—eek! /// to the point…when i begin to fly hypomanic or am already soaring hypomanic, the very WORST OH WORST thing my husband can do is make ANY CRITICISM OR GESTURE OF DISAPPROVAL of/toward either me or my ideas. he and i are best friends and kindred spirits, we crack each other up humor-wise, and we’re truly-madly-deeply in love. BUT—let him utter the slightest criticism or show any tiny sign of disapproval—no matter HOW lovingly presented (and which at any other time would be okay)—and my mind AND body go OUT OF CONTROL with fury, hateful outbursts, and boundless energy to fuel both. /// SO WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO TALK TO ME AT THOSE HYPOMANIC TIMES? k-i-n-d-l-y. negative things can be put on hold until i come back down to earth. when hypomanic, i simply can’t bear his or anyone’s DISAPPROVAL of me. /// i this is all asking quite a lot of a person, and my husband does his very best. you bet i adore him for it! in return, i do my very best to follow a suggestion he made after eight years of observing me: take a nap. he noticed that when i’m explosive and hateful etc i always—and it’s true!!—feel worlds better if i take a nap. of course, that nap isn’t always easy to accomplish. since i’m inwardly raging (and/or outwardly raging). i may need to take a small dose of my psychologist-prescribed sleeping aid (non-addictive). but i work at it with the determination level with which he works at being completely upbeat and positive during these times. thus we both have to exert great effort to do our respective parts, this being something which in and of itself shows each other our willingness to cooperate in order to restore me (and also our relationship) to a peaceful, loving place. AND IT WORKS! AIN’T THAT SOMETHING?

and the glory, gratitude, and thanks for this goes completely to God, who loves us ALL beyond measure. = )

September 6, 2009 at 5:02 pm
(9) lovingmom says:

My college age child was dx with bipolar 18mos ago. I don’t see the person I knew before. I don’t know if I’m the trigger or if this is who she’ll be now. She lost a year in school and has one semester left to grad. I’d feel better if she made the effort to get a job. I’m afraid to pressure her to do that becuase of her illness but at 22 shouldnt you be working at something? I’m at a loss on what to do.

September 7, 2009 at 7:53 am
(10) Marcy Rubin says:

Mania is unpredictable. For me a major aspect in recovery has been unconditional love. Creating this bond makes it easier to communicate before, in the middle or after a manic episode.

In my opinion the first step towards remaining calm, understand the power of a manic episode. You learn by creating a collaboration of family, friends, doctors, support groups and now coaches. Having a complete system in place makes it possible to gain coping skills needed when tentions are high.

Eventually the warning signs are easier to spot and you see how mania affects people. The key to remember no one is perfect, try to do the best you can at that moment and have respect for everyone involved.

I live in a bipolar world this is my “normal” and I am grateful for all the people who have helped me along my personal journey. Because of them I am proud to be me.

October 16, 2009 at 10:20 am
(11) heather says:

I don’t have anyone to talk to about this subject in my life since no one has any idea of hypomania around me. I have a hypomanic boyfriend who is always late when we’re supposed to meet. He always aaaaaaaaaalways promises that he’s going to be there at the exact time we agree on. He is always at least an hour late. He has a very very stressful life and doesnt exactly take care of his hypomania. When I ask him (no matter if he’s at a hypomanic state or not) why he’s aaaaaaaaaalways late, he never answers. Is this possible with hypomanic people? That’s what I’m wondering. If so, how can we overcome this? He has this habit of saying he’ll be there in 5 minutes but it takes him at least half an hour… I tell him ok, I’ll wait, but at least give me the correct time… again he says 5 minutes… please tell me if this is normal for a hypomanic? ps: it’s a long term relationship

April 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm
(12) Kim says:

I’m 31 years old and I was just diagnosed as Bipolar II last week. For the past 10 years or so I’ve been treated for depression. I went off of Wellbutrin when I was pregnant with my son (who is now 3.) and never went back on the medication until January of this year. Doing so sent me into rapid cycling, nearly every two weeks. About three weeks ago I had a breakdown and the shrink put me on Zoloft in addition to the wellbutrin thinking that the wellbutrin alone wasn’t helping my depression. Needless to say that put me over the edge with the mania. I was unable to function. I couldn’t sit still. It was like I was a spring, wound so tightly it shook. I called the doctor a few days later, frantic because I was sure I was going to crawl out of my own skin. Of course this was Easter so I had to wait an additional few days to actually get into to see my psychiatrist. After talking with him and him reviewing more of my file from my psychologist it was determined that I displayed many Bipolar II tendencies. He’s since put me on Lamictal. But he said it could take weeks for it to get into my system. He wrote a prescription for Ambilify as well but was very apprehensive of me taking it. Mostly because he said it could cause weight gain. At this point I really don’t care if I gain weight. I need to stop feeling this way. I did not get the Ambilify filled.. just the Lamictal. Does anybody else take this and how long did it take for you start “calming down?” I also need help with how not to take this out on my boyfriend. I love him dearly and he’s so supportive but I see what I do to him when the mania fades and it kills me. I honestly don’t know how much more he can take before he leaves.

April 18, 2012 at 6:30 am
(13) GG says:

OMG!! I have a partner who does not even know she is bi polar. She just came out of a one year serious depression followed by her current hypomania which is new. She is in her 30′s and refuses to even explore the possibilities of her being manic. I can’t take it. It is challenging enough to have to deal with the instability and all that goes with it, but to be the recipient of all of the anger and lashing out is just too much.
She just got an eviction notice and has been told by the principal at her kid’s school to never come to the school again. She hasn’t worked in over 2 years and has lost her business. She has huge delusions of grandeur. She can’t remember half of the things she says… She rambles incessantly and sees all of these hidden meanings in every mundane thing.

I give so much energy to her and her sickness which goes unacknowledged as she won’t admit or accept or acknowledge anything.

And I have a brother who is also bi polar and his symptoms are almost exact to hers. So I know I’m not imagining it.

So if you know someone is destroying their life but they won’t listen to you and turn on you and beat you down for even suggesting there may be something wrong, WHAT THE HECK CAN ONE DO TO HELP?? This is exhausting and exasperating and I just want to throw in the towel. What to do?

June 19, 2012 at 11:38 pm
(14) Destin says:

Hello im destin im 14 and i think my mom is bipolar with mania. She has almost all the symptoms of hypomania and most of mania. She is very argumentative,stobborn,impulsive and alot of other things but if there is any one that can help me you can reach me at dcdrake88@gmail.com .please help!!!

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